legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Nursing Homes in New Mexico
According to Medicare.gov, there are 68 nursing homes in New Jersey. Of these nursing facilities, 36 (53%) are rated at or above the national average on the care and services they provide. The remaining 32 (37%) New Mexico nursing homes are ranked below average or far below.
These nursing facilities with significantly low levels have violated New Mexico regulations and acceptable levels regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Many nursing home staff lack sufficient training when providing care and services, including medical care and hygiene assistance.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect commonly occur where insufficient care or protection harms residents. In many cases, the injured resident suffers death that could have been prevented had caregivers followed established protocols and procedures.
All employees at New Mexico nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, senior living community's, assisted living centers, and rehabilitation facilities must help patients maintain maximum quality of life based on their current medical conditions. The nursing staff monitors patient health conditions and reports any issues to their immediate supervisors.
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, many skilled nursing facilities in assisted-living homes failed to follow through with their responsibilities by ignoring patient complaints or obvious accident hazards. Data reveals that approximately 30% of all senior citizens living in nursing homes in New Mexico are subjected to neglect and mistreatment at some point during their stay.
Below is a small sample of neglect and abuse at assisted living facilities and nursing homes in New Mexico.
Failure to Report and Investigate Any Act or Reports of Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment
If anyone observes or experiences mistreatment at the facility, they must immediately notify the administrator and state agency. A lack of action by the administrator or state agency may constitute evidence of neglect or abuse.
- Failure to keep a resident free from neglect and abuse after a resident had two falls and experienced an additional unintentional fall to the floor near the activity room when a chair landed on his back. After the fall, there was no documentation in the medical record after the fall that he had been assessed for that fall or another fall that happened later that day. (Aztec Healthcare Nursing Home)
- Failure to provide necessary care for one resident reviewed for wound care by not conducting accurate wound measurements, updating the treatment plan, not implementing interventions when the resident refused to eat, and not notifying the resident's physician when there was evidence of infection in the bed sore. Investigators determined that these deficiencies made the wound septic, contributing to her death. (Good Samaritan Society-Grants)
- Failure of the nurse's aides to tell licensed and registered nurses when a resident's urine was dark brown, indicating the body's response to a urinary tract infection even though the urine had a strong, foul odor, indicating that the infection had been ongoing for a couple of weeks. (Heartland Continuing Care Center)
- Failure to prevent sexual abuse of two residents likely led to their feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in the facility where they could suffer a decline in their activities of daily living and not wanting to participate in therapy due to psycho/social harm involving an Activities Assistant who had been drinking on the job and allowed to residents to see her breasts, touch her breasts, and a combination of both. (Ladera Center)
- Failure to ensure that one resident reviewed for constipation was free from neglect after administering an antidepressant that could lead to constipation when she began having no bowel movements for 16 days. (Ladera Center)
- Failure to recognize and respond timely to a change in a condition involving muscle weakness, numbness, and slurred speech, resulted in a delay in treatment after the resident's daughters had her transported to the hospital, where she received a diagnosis of a stroke. (Ladera Center)
- Failure to timely notify the family of a resident's death, the family members had flown into town to see the resident before she passed. After seeing their loved one on November 2, 2020, they were returning the following day but received a phone call at 8:30 AM the resident had passed away at 5:45 AM that morning. (Ladera Center)
- Failure to ensure that a resident with cognitive impairment with behavioral symptoms received all necessary person-centered interventions to maintain or improve her well-being and failure to provide sufficient consistent monitoring and not planning and implementing interventions likely contributed to her decline in health, leading to readmission into an acute care facility. (Las Palomas Center)
- Failure to keep residents free from abuse after the nursing staff did not ensure that a night nurse no longer worked with the resident after numerous complaints and ensure that a different resident received the necessary supervision to prevent resident-to-resident assault could lead to experiencing humiliation, intimidation, fear, and physical body harm. (Princeton Place Nursing Home)
- Failure to provide ongoing monitoring of a resident with a known history of decannulating (removing a tracheostomy tube) remove their trach multiple times after it was reinserted for the staff failed to provide interventions to prevent pulling the trach after 1.5 hours after the last decannulation was found unresponsive and passed away. (Princeton Place Nursing Home)
- Failure to prevent resident-to-resident abuse by not providing sufficient supervision for a resident with known sexually inappropriate behaviors and not implementing additional interventions to protect residents after a male resident playing with himself was attempting to lure female patients into the room. (Sandia Ridge Skilled Nursing Facility)
- Failure to protect residents from all forms of abuse after a resident on the dementia unit was followed 29 medications inside her purse, including antipsychotic drugs, diuretics, blood pressure medication, and anti-anginal medicine along with nerve pain (gabapentin) medication who experienced a hypertensive episode and was transferred to the hospital for higher care. (Saint Anthony Health Care and Rehab Center)
- Failure to prevent resident-to-resident altercation led to a hip fracture when one resident pushed another patient to the floor. (Saint Anthony Health Care and Rehab Center)
- Failure to prevent neglect by not providing a resident with proper access to a call light/ability to request assistance from staff and not recognizing and treating a significant decline experienced by the resident, likely resulting in their inability to use the call light. (The Neighborhood in Rio Rancho Skilled Nursing Facility)
Preventable Falls in Nursing Homes in New Mexico
There are potential fall risks in any environment, including New Mexico nursing homes and long-term care facilities. These risks can be even more significant for elderly residents in skilled nursing homes due to factors such as age, frailty, and multiple medications.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death among elderly residents in New Mexico nursing homes. One in every four falls leads to serious injuries such as broken bones or head injuries. And every year, more than 1.5 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries nationwide.
What contributes to falls in New Mexico nursing homes and assisted living facilities? There are many potential causes:
- Not Providing Mobility Assistance: Some residents may need help getting up and walking around, but if they do not receive this assistance, they may fall down instead. Staff should always be available to assist residents who need help moving around.
- Poorly Lit Hallways And Walkways: All nursing homes that are not well-lit can create challenges for residents who need to see where they are going, which could lead to falls.
- Inadequate Supervision: Senior living staff not paying close attention to residents may wander off or fall down without anyone noticing.
- Lack Of Safety Features: New Mexico nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and senior living communities should have safety features like railings on staircases and non-slip floors to prevent residents from falling down.
- Poorly Maintained Grounds: If the nursing home's grounds are not clean and free of debris, residents can easily trip and fall.
- Uneven Sidewalks And Walkways: Any uneven sidewalks and walkways in and around New Mexico nursing homes can create hazards for residents to slip and fall.
- Carpeting In Hallways And Common Areas: While carpeting may be comfortable for senior living residents, it can also be a hazard since it can be difficult to see when someone is walking on it or to stop quickly if you start to slip.
- Cluttered Hallways And Common Areas: Cluttered hallways and common areas in and around New Mexico nursing homes can create hazards for residents to navigate without tripping or falling.
- Chairs And Tables In Common Areas: Chairs and tables in common areas can be a hazard for skilled nursing residents if they are not correctly secured or left in a hazardous location, like in front of a doorway.
- Wet Floors: New Mexico nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and senior living communities should always keep their floors dry to prevent slips and falls.
- Poorly Maintained Wheelchairs: Wheelchairs that are not adequately maintained in skilled nursing homes can easily malfunction, leading to falls by the resident using them.
All of these factors can create avoidable falls in senior living facilities. Families need to be aware of the dangers and take steps to ensure their loved ones are safe while residing in a nursing home.
The Unauthorized Use of Chemical or Physical Restraints in Nursing Homes in New Mexico
In nursing homes, chemical and physical restraints are often used to control resident behavior. While these methods may seem effective in the short term, they can be quite harmful in the long term.
Chemical restraints are medications given to residents to control their behavior. These medications are addictive to New Mexico seniors and cause several side effects, including drowsiness, confusion, and agitation.
Physical restraints are devices used to restrict a resident's movement. Physical restraints can be dangerous, leading to falls and other injuries. They can also make breathing difficult for residents and cause pressure ulcers.
Some reasons caregivers use chemical and physical restraints on residents in nursing homes in New Mexico include:
- Refusing to Cooperate: Nursing home staff who refuse to cooperate with residents can make them angry and frustrated. This can lead to tension and conflict in the home.
- Lack of Staffing: Nursing homes are often understaffed, leading to residents not getting the skilled nursing care they need. When staff is overworked, they may use restraints to control residents instead of providing them with the care they need.
- Ineffective Communication: When staff does not effectively communicate with residents, it can lead to confusion and frustration on the part of the resident. This can sometimes cause residents to act out, leading staff to use restraints to control them.
- Limited Mobility: Elderly residents have limited mobility due to health problems or age in a senior care facility. When skilled nursing staff cannot help residents get around, they may use restraints to keep them in one place.
- Behavioral Issues: Some nursing home residents may exhibit problematic behaviors for staff members, such as verbal outbursts or aggression. Sometimes, skilled nursing care staff may use restraints to calm the resident down or stop them from engaging in unwanted behavior.
- Dementia: Dementia can often cause New Mexico residents to act out in ways that are difficult for staff members to deal with. In some cases, staff may use restraints in nursing homes facilities to keep the resident safe and prevent them from hurting themselves or others.
- Mental Illness: New Mexico seniors with mental illness may also exhibit problematic behaviors for staff members. In some cases, staff may use restraints to keep the residents safe and prevent them from hurting themselves or others.
- Poor Nutrition: Nursing home residents who do not eat enough or eat unhealthy foods may become agitated and restless. Sometimes, staff will use restraints to force the resident to eat or drink something they do not want to eat or drink.
- Restlessness: Many elderly patients in senior living facilities become restless late at night or early in the morning. When no one is available to help calm them down, staff may use restraints to control their behavior until someone is available to help them relax.
- Pain Management: Elderly residents in pain may become agitated and restless. In some cases, staff may use restraints for the resident's pain medication to take effect more quickly
Why Medicare & Medicaid Services Require New Mexico Nursing Homes to Implement Infection Prevention and Control Protocols
Infection prevention and control protocols are required in New Mexico nursing homes to protect the residents from acquiring and spreading infections.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has stated that nursing homes must have an effective infection prevention and control program to be eligible for reimbursement for services provided to residents.
There are many reasons why CMS requires nursing homes to implement infection prevention and control protocols.
- First, infections can cause serious health complications for residents, including death.
- Second, many infections can be spread through contact with other residents or caregivers and can easily spread in a nursing home setting.
- Third, effective infection prevention and control protocols can help reduce the incidence of hospitalizations and other healthcare-associated complications among nursing home residents.
Implementing effective infection prevention and control protocols is critical to the safety and well-being of nursing home residents. Nursing homes that fail to put these protocols into place may be subject to penalties from CMS.
The Nursing Home Protocol Should Involve:
- Nursing staff should minimize skin-to-skin contact with residents to help prevent the spread of infection. This can be done by avoiding physical contact unless necessary and using sanitary measures such as gloves and masks when interacting with residents.
- Staff should ensure that any cuts or bruises are properly covered to prevent bacteria from entering the wound.
- Hands should always be washed thoroughly before and after any interaction with a resident and between tasks such as handling food and caring for bedridden patients.
- Residents who are infected or showing signs of infection should be kept in a separate area from other nursing home patients to avoid spreading the disease.
- All surfaces in the nursing home should be regularly cleaned and disinfected to help prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Nursing home staff should monitor residents for any signs of infection and report any concerns immediately.
- Patients recovering from an infection should be given plenty of time to rest and recuperate and should not resume normal activities until they are fully healed.
The Types of Abuse, Neglect, and Mistreatment Occurring in Nursing Homes in New Mexico
Nursing home abuse, neglect, and mistreatment are serious issues. It can occur in any nursing home, regardless of size or location. The reasons for abuse, neglect, and mistreatment are complex and can vary from case to case.
Some of the most common types of abuse include:
- Psychological abuse: Making fun of residents' appearance or behavior and threatening or isolating them from friends and family can be just as damaging as any other type of abuse.
- Physical abuse: Slapping, punching, or kicking residents is a clear way to inflict harm.
- Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual activity, including inappropriate touching of residents or forcing them to participate in sexual acts, is inexcusable.
- Financial abuse: Stealing money or possessions from residents is a way to take advantage of them.
- Verbal abuse: Screaming at residents, calling them names, or yelling at them can be extremely damaging.
- Neglect: Not providing proper food, water, clothing, or shelter can lead to severe health problems.
- Ignoring medical needs: Failing to provide necessary medication or treatment can be deadly.
- Allowing bedsores: Not moving residents every two hours can cause painful and dangerous bed sores.
- Not providing aid when needed: Refusing to help residents get up, go to the bathroom, or eat can be very harmful.
- Discrimination: Mistreating certain residents because of their race, religion, age, or disability is inexcusable.
- Keeping residents in uncomfortable conditions: Putting too many people in one room or not having enough staff on duty can cause immense stress for the residents.
- Restricting freedom: Forcing residents to remain in their rooms or not allowing them to leave the facility can be very oppressive.
- Causing fear: Making threats toward residents or scaring them with violence is unacceptable.
- Taking away belongings: Destroying or taking personal possessions without permission is unfair and mean-spirited.
Nursing home abuse, neglect, and mistreatment often result from a combination of factors. It is important to remember that no one reason can be blamed for all cases of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. Every situation is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits.